NEW YORK — Jeff Hornacek is only a quarter of the way through his first season as New York Knicks coach, but he is already a master at dealing with his boss’ distractions. Since Knicks president Phil Jackson does not regularly speak with reporters, whenever he makes headlines, Hornacek has to answer questions about it. The latest example: In an interview on CBS Sports Network’s “We Need To Talk,” Jackson said that New York star Carmelo Anthony “has a little bit of a tendency to hold the ball for three, four, five seconds, then everybody comes to a stop.”
Before the Knicks’ 126-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, Hornacek managed to avoid dismissing what Jackson said, while simultaneously praising Anthony and spinning the story positively.
“Yeah, I think there’s probably times that happens, but then there’s other times when he does what he did [Tuesday] night and just carries us,” Hornacek said. “It’s a fine balance. He’s a star player who can really create his own shot from that mid-range area. So sometimes when we talk about maybe moving the ball and holding it, maybe it’s a second or two too long for a normal guy, but for Carmelo it’s fine because he can make that play. We just gotta make sure that the other guys understand they still should cut, and Carmelo, when we keep going to him at those spots, he’ll make passes out of there. That’s when we’ll become really good. He did it [Tuesday] night.”
Anthony, however, was less diplomatic. When the subject came up after the game, he said, “I don’t want to answer those questions,” via ESPN’s Ian Begley.
“I don’t even know what was said, to be honest with you,” Anthony said. “I just don’t even want to talk about that, what he’s talking about exactly. I want to stay away from that at this point. My focus is my teammates and winning. We’ve been playing great basketball, and that’s the only thing I’m focused on. Whatever Phil said, he said it. I have nothing to say about that.”
This is the second time this season that Jackson has put Anthony in an uncomfortable position. First, it was a war of words between Jackson and Anthony’s close friend, LeBron James, after Jackson referred to James’ business associates as a “posse.” And now there’s this, which seems equally unnecessary.
Anthony was obviously annoyed by the situation, and you can understand why it would bother him. As the Knicks’ franchise player, he has signed up for an enormous amount of scrutiny and constant media attention. That’s enough to handle without the team president creating extra questions — especially when the root of it is a direct criticism of his style that he has been hearing for his entire career.